Tuesday, January 31, 2006

A Signature Pursuit

Since the Academy Award nomination came out this morning, I'm back on the hunt to see every movie nominated. Actually, this morning's announcement didn't really add that many movies for me to see -- I've already seen most of the nominated films. But I still have a few to go and see.

Tonight I went to see "The New World" which is nominated for Achievement in Cinematography. It was excruciatingly boring! It's about the establishment of a British colony -- Jamestown, Virginia -- in 1607 and Captain John Smith's relationship with "the naturals" (which is how they refer to Native Americans in the movie). I was so happy when it was over -- but it's true the cinematography is beautiful.

I spent this afternoon at a public meeting on climate change at the Ronald Reagan State Office Building in downtown Los Angeles. Rosario Marin -- who served as the second President Bush's first United States Treasurer -- and just today was appointed by the Governor to be Secretary of the State and Consumer Services Agency -- was a participant in the meeting. As soon as she came in I checked my pocket and was delighted to find a fairly crisp dollar bill with her signature printed on it. After the meeting I asked her to autograph the dollar and she couldn't have been kinder about doing so. Now I have to get it framed....
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Monday, January 30, 2006

Never Forget

Went to the Royal Theater tonight on Santa Monica Boulevard in West Los Angeles to see the new Hungarian film "Fateless" about the Holocaust.

It follows a Jewish teenage boy in Budapest who gets "arrested" without breaking any laws and is sent off for slave labor and ultimately ends up in a concentration camp.

I've seen a few films about the Holocaust, and this one is haunting.

It's not easy to watch, but I wish every American would.
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Sunday, January 29, 2006

Everyone's a Critic

Saw the incomparable Audra McDonald in concert tonight at the Walt Disney Concert Hall in downtown Los Angeles.

In a surprising move for a performer who has won 4 Tonys (3 before she was 30), McDonald sang nearly all new music -- rather than Broadway standards.

Incidentally, I was fortunate enough to see three of her Tony Award winning performances -- Carousel, Master Class and Ragtime. I missed out on seeing her in A Raisin in the Sun.

McDonald started the show by sharing a fantasy with the audience -- she wanted to come out and start singing, "The sun'll come out tomorrow..." just to see how many people would get up and leave. (Andrea McArdle originated the role of Annie on Broadway.)

Between songs she talked a little about her personal life. She's a native Californian who grew up in Fresno. Her young daughter isn't a fan of her singing -- once telling McDonald, "your singing makes my ears cry."

No crying ears tonight at the Walt Disney Concert Hall, just lots and lots of applause, two encores and three standing ovations.
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Reminder for 2021

Went to the UCLA Freud Playhouse tonight to catch the Reprise! production of "City of Angels."

Since 1997 Reprise! has presented basic-staging versions of old musicals. It's a great opportunity to see musicals that aren't often staged anymore.

"City of Angels" opened on Broadway on December 11, 1989 and went on to win the 1990 Best Musical Tony. I saw it in 1991 at the Shubert Theater in Century City. (That theater has since been torn down.)

This marks the first time I've seen a musical when it first came out and now I've been around long enough to see its revival.

Other than remembering I'd seen it, I couldn't remember anything about the production 15 years ago. And tonight I now know why. The show is completely forgettable (literally).

The music is by Cy Coleman, the book by Larry Gelbart and lyrics by David Zippel.

It's set in Los Angeles in the 40s and is about a novelist who is turning his Raymond Chandler-esque detective novel into a screenplay. So there's a movie within a story within a musical.

But tonight I didn't find it very funny nor did I particularly like the music -- so if they bring it back in another 15 years hopefully I'll remember to skip it.
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Friday, January 27, 2006

Dazed and Confused

Went to see the new French movie tonight, "Cache" which means "Hidden" in French.

I liked it all the way until the end when it came to an abrupt stop and now I have no bloody idea what to make of this film.

A urban French family is terrorized by someone who is making hidden surveillance films of the outside of their home and their activities around town and then sending them the tapes along with creepy drawings.

One character has to come to grips with the consequences of actions he took as a six-year old. (Yes, when he was six!)

So who was making the video tapes? Good question. Go see the movie and tell me who you think it was. I haven't the foggiest.
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A Fantasia on White Trash

Saw a great play tonight, "Sordid Lives" by Del Shores.

It's a touching comedy about a very dysfunctional family in Winters, Texas. Since he grew up in smalltown Texas, Shores has an amazing ability to capture the speech patterns and lifestyle rhythms of the rural south.

(As one who grew up with a Southern Baptist grandmother -- trust me, I know. When they work the hymn "Just As I Am" into the script I could hear Grandmother Green singing in my head.)

The show is running at the Zephyr Theater on Melrose Avenue in Hollywood. This theater opened 50 years ago as "The Horseshoe Stage" and has been a working stage ever since.

Calling it "A Season of Shores," the Zephyr plans to present all six of Del Shores plays over the course of the year. I can't wait.

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Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Encountering the Movie Police

Went to an advance screening tonight at the Egyptian Theater of "Imagine Me and You," a movie due to be released on Friday.

It's about a young married couple dealing with extraneous forces affecting their marriage. (How's that for vague?)

Set in London, the cast's British accents obscured some of the dialogue for me. But, all in all, it's an enjoyable flick.

I'm sure I'd have some cute little picture to post along with this entry -- except they made me surrender my camera on the way into the theater. (I got it back after the movie.) They wanted to take away my Crackberry too, but I guess I looked so upset at the mere suggestion they just backed down. What am I going to do? Email someone the plot during the movie?

On a related note, whenever I read a newspaper article about Blackberry getting shutdown for patent infringement I get a little tight in the chest.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Funny International Relations

Caught Albert Brooks' new movie, "Looking for Comedy in the Muslim World." Of course, the joke is there's not a whole lot of it.

Brooks plays himself, an American comedian, sent by the U.S. State Department to India and Pakistan to "understand" Muslims by finding out what makes them laugh.

This movie is funny, funny, funny -- one of Brooks' best. I guess it proves I'm not Muslim, because I was laughing the whole time.

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Monday, January 23, 2006

Beware of Big Brother

I wonder if someone at the New York Times reads my blog because the newspaper I didn't get yesterday was delivered to my door this morning.

I haven't read it all, but I've already found one article I'm glad I didn't miss -- the restaurant and bar McHale's, at the corner of 46th and 8th since 1953, closed yesterday. A victim of the improved conditions in Times Square, this long-time dive bar is going condo. I ate there once, and every time I walked by I thought to myself, "I need to go back there." Oh, well.

Tonight I saw a very well-crafted Merchant Ivory film, "The White Countess," starring Ralph Fiennes and Natasha Richardson. The film also features Natasha's mother Vanessa Redgrave and her aunt, Lynn Redgrave.

Set in the late 30s, Fiennes plays a blind former American diplomat determined to open the perfect bar in Shanghai. Richardson plays a Russian countess chased out by the Russian Revolution and facing hard times in Shanghai.

Fiennes creates his perfect bar with Richardson as his "centerpiece," only realize his bar in lacking one necessary element -- political friction amongst the club goers. When the Japanese finally invade Shanghai he gets more than he bargained for.

This beautifully photographed movie creates a very romantic image of Shanghai prior to WWII.
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Sunday, January 22, 2006


I don't know how widespread the problem was, but the New York Times wasn't delivered today to homes in my neighborhood.

At first I thought they just missed me. I didn't get around to trying to buy a copy until early this evening. I went to over 10 newsstands, grocery stores, liquor stores and bookstores -- and they were all sold out. Several of the clerks said lots of people had come in asking for a copy.

I wonder what happened and I wonder if I missed any interesting articles today.

This afternoon I saw a show at The Celebration Theater called "Judy at the Stonewall Inn." It's about a not-so-good Judy Garland impersonator who is visited by Judy Garland's ghost.

Cute set-up, but just an OK show.

It's directed by a fellow-Junior Statesmen alumnus, Derek Charles Livingston, so at least there's that.

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Saturday, January 21, 2006


Caught Oscar Wilde's "The Importance of Being Earnest" at the Ahmanson Theater at the Music Center tonight.

It's a nice production, directed by Sir Peter Hall, of Wilde's most famous play about identity fraud a la 1895.

Lynn Redgrave plays the sturdy Lady Bracknell well.

It's fun to hear Wilde's skewering of the British class system -- but ultimately I was bored.

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Friday, January 20, 2006

Day and Night

Today started early at a breakfast where Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez was the guest speaker. He gave a good speech and rose to the occasion, notable at such an early hour. He really connected with the audience. And since it's an election year now, the room was filled with elected officials and candidates excited just to be introduced.

Tonight I went to see an intriguing show called "Suburban Motel" by George F. Walker at The Complex on Theater Row in Hollywood on Santa Monica Boulevard.

I didn't know much about the show going in, and was completely impressed. It's actually two short plays, "Problem Child" and "Criminal Genius," both of which are set in the same room at a seedy fleabag of a motel.

The script is really well written and the cast is great. Once each act begins they really take off like a rocket. Act One is about a married couple staying in the hotel room as they attempt to get their child back after she was put into foster care by the county.

Act Two is about a group of criminals who just can't pull it together -- including a father and son team committed to non-violent crime.

Both acts feature the same motel manager -- a barely functioning alcoholic, well played by Steven O. Price, who also directed the show.

I laughed through gritted teeth.

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Thursday, January 19, 2006

Close Enough

Had a blast tonight at Varla Jean Merman's new show "I'm Not Paying for This" at the Renberg Theater in Hollywood.

Varla claims to be the "spawn" of the little known thirty-eight day marriage of Ethel Merman and Ernest Borgnine.

Varla is very proud to have recently played the Sydney Opera House. As she explained in tonight's show, ever since she saw "The Sound of Music" it's been her dream to perform in Australia.

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Wednesday, January 18, 2006


Went to the Egyptian Theater in Hollywood for a screening of the 1992 film "Swoon" about the notorious 1924 Leopold and Loeb murder case -- America's first "crime of the century." This happened right near the advent of radio, which led to the sensationalism of the crime.

This movie is based on the same murder case as Alfred Hitchcock's "Rope."

After the screening one of the film's stars, Craig Chester, was on hand to answer questions.
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Tuesday, January 17, 2006


With the Golden Globes over and the Oscar nominations not out until January 31, I'm back to picking my own movies to see.

Not such a good idea.

Tonight I saw a sick film "presented" by Quentin Tarrentino called "Hostel." I don't even want to tell you the plot. Let's just say it won't be used by the Slovakia Tourist Bureau anytime soon.

Fortunately, I did get to have dinner and the brand-new, modern Food Court at the Century City Mall. Lots of good choices there.
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Monday, January 16, 2006

Golden Globes Wrap-up

Well, I correctly predicted 9 of the 13 Golden Globe Awards for Motion Pictures -- 69% accurate.

And in one of the four categories I got wrong (Best Screenplay) the award went to the screenplay I said I would have voted for (Brokeback Mountain) but not the one I predicted would win (Match Point).

Now I have to wait for the Oscar nominations on January 31 to have another list of films to go see.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Movie Madness

In anticipation of tomorrow night's Golden Globe Awards I watched 3 movies today -- 2 on DVD and 1 at the new AMC Theater at the Century City Mall (photo above).

First I watched "Kung Fu Hustle" -- another Chinese movie nominated for Best Foreign Language Film. It's a "Looney Tunes" version of a kung fu movie. I don't have much to write about it other than it's another check on my list of nominees.

Then I watched "Hustle & Flow" for which Terrence Howard is nominated for Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture Drama. It's about a Memphis pimp going through a mid-life crisis and drawn to rap music as a way to exorcise his demons. Interesting movie with really great acting all around -- all of the performances are really convincing.

Then tonight I went out to see "Munich," which received two Golden Globe nominations and lots of hype. Many people have asked how Steven Spielberg and Tony Kushner could team up to make a move that can be perceived as anti-Israel? But that's not the right question. The correct question is, "How could Steven Spielberg and Tony Kushner team up to make a movie that is so BORING?"

At first it seemed like they were going to spend thirty minutes on each of the 11 assassinations of the PLO masterminds behind the Munich Olympic Games murders of Israeli athletes. The movie's pace made it seem like it would last five and a half hours. Shoot me and get it over with!

At least I finally made it to the new AMC Theater in the Century City Mall. Very impressive! I guess with the recent improvement of movie theaters on the westside AMC felt the competitive need to improve their offering. Too bad no one goes to movie theaters anymore.

On the way to Century City I drove by the Beverly Hilton, which was teeming with activity for tomorrow night's Golden Globe Awards.

So with no further ado, here are my choices (V) and predictions for this year's Golden Globes:

Brokeback Mountain (V & P)

Felicity Huffman/Transamerica (V&P)

Philip Seymour Hoffman (V&P)

The Squid and the Whale (V)
Walk the Line (P)

Laura Linney/The Squid and the Whale (V)
Reese Witherspoon/Walk the Line (P)

Pierce Brosnan/The Matador (V)
Joaquin Phoenix/Walk the Line (P)

(No vote because I didn't see "Merry Christmas")
Tsotsi (P)

Frances McDormand/North Country (V)
Rachel Weisz/The Constant Gardener (P)

Matt Dillon/Crash (V)
George Clooney/Syriana (P)

Ang Lee/Brokeback Mountain (V&P)

Larry McMurtry & Diana Ossana/Brokeback Mountain (V)
Woody Allen/Match Point (P)

Gustavo Santaolalla/Brokeback Mountain (V&P)

(No vote because I didn't see "Christmas in Love.")
Dolly Parton/"Travelin' Thru"/Transamerica (P)

Now you can score along and see how I did!

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Saturday, January 14, 2006

Fade to Black

Saw a nearly forgettable show called "Naked Deception" tonight at the Studio Stage on Western Avenue in Hollywood.

It's a story about three couples whose domestic bliss is interrupted by a scheming houseguest.

What kept it from being totally forgettable was a theatrical disaster. During the second act the lights started to flicker and dim and finally completely went out while the show was running. The actors gamely made a joke about "not paying the power bill" and went on with their dialogue in the dark. Soon the lights came on and everything seemed fine. Then it happened again! And again. Finally -- with the show still running -- they turned on the fluorescent lights they usually use to clean the floors.

Of course the actors looked terrible under the harsh light -- you could see every layer of make-up. But at least you could see them.

Then -- with the show still running -- they tried to get the lighting back to normal and turned off the fluorescent lights. And, of course, after a few minutes they went out again. They finally finished the show under the harsh glare of fluorescence.


Went to see "The Matador" last night and loved it. Pierce Brosnan, in his first post-James Bond role, plays a burned out assassin and Greg Kinnear plays a square-as-can-be salesman fascinated by the hit-man he meets in a hotel lobby.

It's really a very fun and stylish buddy movie. Set all around the world, the first several minutes are filmed in Mexico City -- making it look like a lovely and fascinating city to visit.

Brosnan, in a Golden Globe nominated performance, really impresses in a very anti-Bond role. He looks and seems very much the killer who can quite pull it together. And I loved his reaction when Kinnear, first getting to know him in a hotel bar, asks if he's a spy!

I guess the conversion of movie theaters into living rooms was completed when the woman sitting next to me slipped off her shoes and applied lotion to her feet while the movie was on. And then about 20 minutes after her beauty treatment she left. Whatever!
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Thursday, January 12, 2006

I Could Get Used To This

Went to Downtown Los Angeles tonight to the exclusive California Club for a meeting of the Junior Statesmen's Southern California Alumni Committee.

We're planning an event this Spring to celebrate Junior Statesmen's 70th Anniversary.

Meeting at the California Club certainly set the stage for a lovely event -- the club is quite something inside and out. It was nice of Ray Remy (former Deputy Mayor of Los Angeles and former President of the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce) to have arranged our meeting site.
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Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Don't Touch My Plate

Had dinner tonight with Realtor-to-the-Stars Lynette Williams at The Courtyard Restaurant on Santa Monica Boulevard in West Hollywood.

It's a lovely place -- with a beautiful patio that was nice tonight since we sat near a heater.

The food is good. My only problem is this restaurant specializes in tapas -- small plates where the idea is to order several different items and share with everyone at the table. I don't really like that dining concept -- I guess sharing my food isn't something I'm good at.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Thinking of China

Seemed fitting tonight to go to a screening of a Chinese movie since I was in Shanghai exactly one year ago.

"The Promise" is nominated for a Golden Globe for Best Foreign Language Film.

Famed Director Chen Kaige was on-hand to introduce his film and make a few comments before the screening. In discussing the political changes taking place in China Kaige said, "Only when you have the freedom of heart can you fly." I couldn't have said it better myself.

The movie is very different from any movie made in America. It's a fantastical fable set at a time and place where Gods lived amongst the people. There are epic battle scenes along with lots of hand-to-hand combat where people fly about.

Not exactly my cup of tea, but I'm glad I saw it.
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Monday, January 09, 2006


Yesterday I saw "The Family Stone" starring Sarah Jessica Parker -- who is nominated for a Golden Globe.

It's fun and funny. It's also utterly predictable, but that actually made it better. You KNEW it was all going to work out in one grand cliche.

Tonight I saw "Tsotsi," a VERY intense film from South Africa nominated for a Golden Globe for Best Foreign Language Film. Filmed in Johannesburg and Soweto it's about a hoodlum from a shantytown with absolutely no appreciation for the difference between right and wrong.

Until he carjacks a car and finds a baby in the backseat.

It's based on a novel by Athol Fugard -- South Africa's best regarded living writer.

I had NO IDEA where this movie was going -- and that made me appreciate it all the more.
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Sunday, January 08, 2006

Going Southeast to North Country

Went to Norwalk, in southeast Los Angeles County, yesterday to see "North Country" in one of the few theaters where it's still playing.

Both Charlize Theron and Frances McDormand are nominated for Golden Globes.

Whatever I spent on gas I made up in the $2.75 ticket price.

It's an OK movie about a landmark sexual harassment lawsuit at a stripmine in northern Minnesota.
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Escape Plan

I've heard of plays boring someone to death -- but I'd never seen it actually happen, until Friday night.

Went to the Mark Taper Forum at the Music Center to see "Lewis & Clark Reach the Euphrates." There's an interesting concept behind the show: how the pioneering spirit of the United States (represented by Lewis and Clark) continues to affect our foreign (and military) policy today.

In the show Lewis & Clark themselves detour through the Spanish-American War, Vietnam and end up in Iraq. Sounds interesting, huh?

BORING! Talk, talk, talk. This show is awful. The playwright didn't do anything with the concept.

During the first act I watched as the people sitting around me slowly dropped off into sleep. (At least that was fun.)

And then about an hour into the show there was some sort of commotion behind me and a voice called out, "Is there a doctor in the house?"

More commotion -- but the actors kept on going with the show even though the house lights had come up a little bit.

A woman in front of me nudged the VERY young man sitting next to her and said, "They need a Doctor, GO!" (During intermission I heard him talking to the folks he was with and it turns out he's a psychiatrist.)

With the show still running, theater staff carried the person out of the theater and I saw the paramedics on their way in during intermission (which seemed like a really slow response, by the way.)

Unfortunately for the show, this episode was the only interesting drama of the evening.
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Fountain at the Norwalk Town Square Shopping CenterPosted by Picasa

Friday, January 06, 2006

Wasted Talent

Widowed, and fabulously wealthy, in London in 1937 Mrs. Henderson decides to purchase The Windmill Theatre on a lark. When ticket sales for "Reviewdeville" sag Mrs. Henderson -- played by Dame Judi Dench -- along with the theater manager -- played by Bob Hoskins -- decide to present nude women in tableaux.

WWII comes and the show must go on!

Unfortunately, there's not much more to it than that.
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Thursday, January 05, 2006

Back Home in the Suburbs

Made it back home to Los Angeles tonight. I was in front of my TV before the end of the first half of the Rose Bowl. But with my jetlag, I fell asleep before the game was over. Now that I've caught up with the score I guess it's just as well. Congratulations to the one Texas fan I know -- Matt Randazzo.

For the "It's a Small World" files: One of the flight attendants on my flight from Heathrow to Chicago recognized me from the London Metropole Hotel. It turns out we both went to see the same show Tuesday night and he noticed me taking the tube back to the same hotel where he was staying. And then he saw me on his flight. What are the chances of that? Of course I used it as an opportunity to complain about the London Metropole Hotel. My latest complaint was I didn't receive the wake-up call I'd asked for on Tuesday morning. Turns out neither did most of the flight crew.

On Tuesday afternoon I saw a matinee of "Edward Scissorhands," Matthew Bourne's latest dance drama. I was completely blown away by this show at Sadler's Wells. About accepting and rejecting people who are different, the story was beautifully told through dance. I hope it will transfer and tour the States. Posted by Picasa

This store should have been busy on Tuesday -- but I guess most people in London already have a brally. Posted by Picasa